In the summer of 2016, Kennisland and the Amsterdam municipality settle in Amsterdam Nieuw-West to start the ++Social labRead more on our social labs and take a look at our publication ‘Lab Practice: Creating Spaces for Social Change’. ‘Plaatsmakers’ (Placemakers) on living together in harmony in the public space. Nieuw-West is a neighbourhood characterised by Amsterdam’s urban expansion, various waves of renewal projects and urban policies aimed at tackling the area’s socio-economic problems.
We start at the Corfuplantsoen, a green square in the middle of a residential area between Sloten and De Aker. For a lot of youths from the neighbourhood, the square is a popular place to hang out. Residents of the houses surrounding the square say to be bothered by these youngsters for quite some time. According to street coaches this area has been demanding attention for over ten years now, and also the police knows the area well. But the nuisance remains, and the residents are losing faith in the municipality and the police. A dialogue with the youths seems to be missing. Despite the physical proximity there is barely any contact between the residents and the youths: the gap between them only evolves. With Plaatsmakers, a team of residents, youths, civil servants and professionals will explore how public neighbourhood spacesDespite the physical proximity there is barely any contact between the residents and the youths: the gap between them only evolves., with the Corfuplantsoen as our starting point, can be transformed into shared spaces where people live together – and takes action.
Starting point: the shared public space
Fear for loitering youngsters, but also the stereotyping and social exclusion of these youths is not new. Various problematic places have experienced positive transformations, like the Diamantbuurt in De Pijp: here, a youth gang caused nuisance and harassments for years. By a combination of tough and soft approaches from the police, the city district and youth associations the neighbourhood improved and became liveable: a breakthrough after years of research, analyses and nearly any improvement. But youth nuisance in the public space is part of a bigger question: ‘How to share and live together in harmony in the cities’ public spaces?’ is a central question in urban planning that applies to all urban citizens. For many urban questions and neighbourhood transformationsYouth nuisance in the public space is part of a bigger question: ‘How to share and live together in harmony in the cities’ public spaces?’ not youth problems but the shared public space and a shared responsibility for that space, are starting points. Examples of successful developments can be found in the Community Graffiti Art project in London and the ++Reggae LaneRead more about the role of art in developing public spaces here. in Toronto, where various groups from the neighbourhood came together to work on improving the street: from an abandoned and unsafe area to a place for interaction and collaboration.
The social lab also focuses on the shared public spaces and the social networks connected to the Corfuplantsoen, rather than on experiences of youth nuisance. The Plaatsmakers-team works from within the neighbourhood, with the Corfuplantsoen as our experimental space where together with the stakeholders as experts – youths and residents, but also the municipality and other involved institutions – we explore the issues at stake and try out new initiatives in the neighbourhood. What brings the youngsters to the Corfuplantsoen? Who are they and what’s on their minds? Who are the residents living in the houses surrounding the square? And can we, together, find ways in which all stakeholders can live together in harmonyWhat brings the youngsters to the Corfuplantsoen? Who are they and what’s on their minds? Who are the residents living in the houses surrounding the square? And can we, together, find ways in which all stakeholders can live together in harmony in and around the square?
in and around the square?
Interaction and working together
We start Plaatsmakers by creating a multidisciplinary team, in which the diverse stakeholders are represented: residents, youths, people from their informal networks, civil servants, professionals from neighbourhood organisations and Kennisland. With this team we collect the neighbourhood’s stories, which we also publish. These stories are used to fuel new insights and – as soon as possible – new initiatives, services, and collaborations. We analyse the stories with a broad collective of stakeholders and on the basis of the themes we identify from these stories, we develop ideas for interventions. In the next phase, these interventions are prototyped: in multiple rounds we test new initiatives in practice. Each testing round gives us new information, and with each testing round we improve the prototype to finally develop a viable and implementable initiative. This way we not only create new solutions, but also interactions and cooperation around these initiatives between residents, youths and professionals.
You can find Plaatsmakers’ stories, photos and movies (in Dutch) on medium.com/plaatsmakers.